Steam’s demo events are a fantastic way for indies to gain greater exposure; that’s how I found out about Evertried. As a roguelike enthusiast, I was immediately struck by its turn-based movement on a grid. It’s totally my jam. I tasted enough of the demo by the end of the event to realize this could be a hit. Of course, since it was a demo, I assumed what I played was more of a “proof of concept” and less emblematic of the entire excursion. After all, this was just the beginning of the game, right? Well, unfortunately, this simple introduction was a clear indication of what the full release would actually play like.
In Evertried, you play as a mask- and scythe-wielding spirit caught in a sort of purgatory between heaven and hell—or whatever the game decides to call these places. You must climb all fifty floors (five worlds with ten floors each) to beat The Tower and find answers. Or you can find answers piecemeal over the course of each run by randomly running into a few different NPCs between floors.
Fans of roguelites will find a home here. Evertried carries over skill upgrades between runs but not much else. In this way, each run is presumably easier in terms of permanent upgrades, but not tremendously so. What players will most often carry between runs is muscle memory and knowledge of enemy movement. This is true of any roguelike, but it’s especially necessary in Evertried, as players gain boons by maxing out a sort of combo meter.
As enemies move after players in turn-based fashion, a combo meter prominently displayed at the top of the screen depletes. When players land a blow on an enemy, the combo meter builds in chunks until a smaller meter fills and adds a level up to ten. The combo meter serves as a multiplier effect on shards (currency) earned from killing enemies, and it also grants the player access to the passive abilities they’ve bought.
That’s right—just buying an ability isn’t enough in most cases. If you don’t accrue focus (the combo meter), then passive abilities don’t take effect. Most passive abilities also have two levels, meaning if you are playing especially quickly, you can gain access to even better skills.
This is one of the big problems with Evertried: information. Quality of life features are severely lacking and can make things needlessly confusing, which is especially egregious in a game that requires near perfect play to ascend The Tower. As you might expect, each enemy boasts different attributes and AI. Enemies react to the player by either avoiding her or moving in mindless pursuit. Some enemies lag a turn by falling asleep and what not. Unless players are highly attentive, however, it isn’t always clear when an enemy’s taking a nap. After a few runs, this may become obvious, but even after several hours, I still had difficulty recognizing when a shield-wielding wisp was taking a nap.
When buying skills, the advertised ability is clearly defined, but the required focus level is not. This information can be found in the skill menu after purchase, but only if the player thinks to check there. Even then, the pressing need to act quickly, avoid getting hit, and maintain the focus level can distract players from realizing when a passive skill levels down due to a lack of focus. The game doesn’t really make it obvious when an ability (like lifesteal, for example) powers down except for a faded icon and a small sound, which in the grand scheme of things, is hardly noticeable compared to the attention the actual game board demands.
Active, usable skills take a long time to upgrade, which can make Evertried feel like a hopeless grind. The skills themselves are fascinating and can significantly affect your strategy, but some are incredibly laborious, not just in terms of cost, but in using them effectively. One NPC speaks vaguely about upgrading a skill, but the opaque phrasing doesn’t offer enough information about how exactly the skill is upgraded. Is it a partial upgrade or a stop on the road to full mastery of the skill? Since the experience bars on skills are difficult to notice, I initially thought the lack of upgrade was a bug until a public relations contact provided clarification.
Runs take tens of minutes to fail, which means hopping back in is relatively painless, but having to trudge through the first act is an absolute chore. Despite how quickly I played, the game still became tedious. When I learned enough to conquer a challenging act, I authentically felt accomplished and experienced the briefest rush, only to lose to new AI and traps that I hadn’t encountered. At that point, the mindless grind extended beyond the first act into the second act.
Unfortunately, Evertried just doesn’t have enough going on to warrant my attention. The game is everything that you see on the surface. Manipulate the enemies into moving into a vulnerable state while avoiding every other enemy, and do that ad nauseam. Active skills add some spice, but it’s not enough to make the core gameplay loop any more exciting.
I feel bad slamming the game like this because there’s clearly tremendous heart poured into it. Evertried’s gameplay is unique and initially thrilling, and I can tell the developers love the world they’ve created. The cute animations, overall art design, adorable music, and lovably odd characters you run into carry a cozy vibe. This is a world I could see myself falling in love with. At the end of the day, though, I’m here to play the game because the story doesn’t carry enough weight, and the game just doesn’t have enough depth or clarity to maintain my interest.
With more time in the oven or expansions, I can see Evertried becoming a much more exciting adventure. As it stands right now, it’s too simple to be called a serious game, but it’s also too cutthroat and challenging to be called a casual game. The systems aren’t clear, information seems almost hidden, and the game just isn’t deep enough to make me want to jump back in after a loss, which is absolutely essential in any roguelike or roguelite. I found some enjoyment in Evertried, and I want to love this game for all its charm and originality, but I quickly tired of it.